World

Yemen civil war: Both sides agree to peace talks, UN says

The UN special envoy for Yemen says warring parties in the impoverished Arabic Peninsula country have agreed to hold peace talks next week.
The UN estimates at least 5,700 people have died since the war between forces loyal to Yemen's internationally recognized government and Houthi rebels escalated last March. (Ahmed al-Basha/AFP/Getty Images)

Yemen's warring parties have agreed to hold peace talks in Switzerland next week.

President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi requested the ceasefire in a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, excerpts of which were seen by Reuters

​"I informed the coalition's leadership that we intend to start a ceasefire for seven days, from December 15th to 21st, in conjunction with the consultations," Hadi wrote. "It will be renewed automatically in case of compliance from the other side."

Hadi's letter confirmed remarks made earlier in the day by UN special envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed.

Ould Cheikh Ahmed pointed to "a number of good signs" that a ceasefire, which is to begin the same day, will be respected. He said only Yemeni participants — not foreigners — would take part in the talks.

"Only a political solution will end the crisis in Yemen," he said. "We strongly believe that the only way to end the suffering of the Yemeni people and to rebuild confidence, trust, and mutual respect is through peaceful and inclusive dialogue."

In this photo provided by the Yemeni Presidency, UN special envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed (left), meets with President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi on Saturday about peace talks with Houthi rebels set to begin in mid-December. (Yemeni Presidency photo/The Associated Press)

Ould Cheik Ahmed added that a lasting peace would require "courage, personal sacrifice and tenacity."

The conflict in the impoverished Arabic Peninsula country pits the Shia Houthi rebels and army units loyal to a former president against a loose alliance of pro-government forces, southern separatists and other militants. The UN estimates that at least 5,700 people have died since the conflict escalated in March and a Saudi-led air campaign began.

Previous peace efforts have ended in failure, with the government demanding the implementation of a UN resolution calling on the Houthis to lay down arms seized from the state and withdraw from territory, including the capital. The Houthis want broader negotiations on the country's political future.

With files from The Associated Press

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